Archive for May, 2010

Google, Facebook and online advertising

There’s an interesting analysis by Charles Arthur in today’s Guardian comparing the impact of Google and Facebook on news and media websites. Arthur cites recent complaints by Rupert Murdoch and Robert Thomson, the editor of the Wall Street Journal, about Google ripping off news content with its aggregator service, as this doesn’t necessarily create traffic for media owners and so offers little potential for returns through advertising.

However Arthur points out that it would make more sense for Murdoch to complain about Facebook, which sends far more traffic to News International sites in the UK than Google News does, according to figures from Experian Hitwise.

According to Paul Bradshaw, a reader in online journalism at Birmingham City University, who Arthur talked to for his article, Google is in Murdoch’s sites because at present it utterly dominates the online advertising market, and is therefore easily Murdoch’s biggest competitor. It makes sense for him to pick a target and stick to it.

But Bradshaw says social media traffic is underestimated because it’s a relatively recent phenomenon: after all, it took years for people to understand the value of Google, and to get to grips with search engine optimisation. He reckons it will take another  five years before social media optimisation is ‘also part of the furniture’.

In the long run, Bradshaw thinks, Facebook is likely to be hugely significant to news organisations for its traffic-driving potential. And considering its enormous size, it’s new ‘Like’ button, enabling Facebook users to recommend a page to their friends, is also likely to be of enormous interest to advertisers. ‘Unlike the big spikes of ‘window shoppers’ that Digg generates, Facebook can attract a long tail of users with demonstrable value,’ he says.

Read the article here.

Excuses, excuses

‘I would get involved in social media, only I don’t know how to measure the results.’

That’s a common enough view among brand marketers, who are always looking for figures so that they can judge the impact of their efforts on the bottom line. But is it reasonable?

Blogger Laura Spencer argues that brands overstate the problem, and that there are plenty of ways to measure the effects of social media marketing.  On a basic level, it doesn’t take much to set goals and then consider whether they are being met.

Spencer also handily lists a bunch of links to other posts that have given this problem some thought and come up with other ideas for measurement.

She states: ‘Not being able to measure results is not really a legitimate excuse any more. (You may have another valid reason for not being involved in social media, but measurement can’t be the reason.)

See her post here.

Don’t give away the farm

For some brands, success in social media marketing seems to be an end in itself, regardless of the method used to achieve it.

The US budget airline JetBlue recently trumpeted its success in marketing on Facebook after it managed to offload a limited number of $10 tickets. Virgin airlines boasted that it got 500 takers for tickets through Twitter’s new ad platform Promoted Tweets – at a 50% discount.

But is this a good way to engage consumers on social media networks? Blogger Patricio Robles thinks not.  What these and other brands are doing, he suggests, is first give away or significantly discount product, then promote it on sites like Facebook or Twitter, then rave about the warm consumer response ‘while acting surprised that consumers were interested in said product’.

What seems to be happening, Robles suggests, is that some marketers are so in thrall to the idea of social media marketing that they engage in short term tactical activity while ignoring the larger strategic picture. Heavy discounts will always win customers, whatever the channel. They might be far better used to reward existing customers, rather than chasing after spurious success in social media marketing.

Measuring return on investment in social media is still tricky, Robles concedes, but social media has the potential to do more than this. ‘Marketers can, and should, set the bar higher than giving away the farm.’

Control and Social Media

Quite a few leading communications professionals I meet are nervous about losing control when they engage with social media and what they would do if their responses triggered an avalanche of replies on different topics.

Communications professionals do not need to be technologists. But they cannot be afraid of technology. Every communications professional needs a set of skills as a user of social media. Twitter, blogs, videos, podcasts, etc, are all technology trends that are boosting communications power in the marketplace. Add to that the power of technology on new mobile devices and you have great opportunities to gain competitive advantages in the way you leverage the technology to expand your customer base.

You need to make sure you are prepared when you try out these new methods of communications. But you don’t want to be one of those ‘who doesn’t get it’.

The new world of social media is happening now. Don’t be left behind or be playing catch up. The numbers and uses of social media today are compelling and continue to grow, especially globally. The key challenge is not control but to determine when and how you use these powerful new tools.

Charles Schwab gives it straight on Facebook

It’s really refreshing to see Charles Schwab, a leading financial organisation, getting involved with social media.

So much has been written about the burdens of regulatory issues and how this is hampering the ability of financial institutions to engage with social media.

Charles Schwab’s team are smart and have seen the future and they have launched a clever page.

What I particularly like is their upfront statement (reprinted below) explaining how it works and what people can expect. They have been clear about the restrictions they are facing. This is conversational, it is honest, it is direct. Hopefully this will inspire more financial institutions to become more social and I think that can only be a good thing. Financial institutions need to be more accountable and they need to be approachable and people need to be able to talk with them more freely and get a better understanding of the contribution they are making to society. What Charles Schwab is doing it not perfect but in the current context – it is a great step foward.

Here’s the Charles Schwab Facebook statement:

Welcome to our Facebook page. Got something on your mind? Feel free to comment or share an opinion. And hey, while we love to hear from you, keep in mind we’re part of a regulated industry with some pretty strict rules on replying to comments and having dialogues in these types of forums so if you don’t hear from us, or we remove posts because they’re inaccurate or don’t meet certain requirements – don’t take it personally, we’re just playing by the rules. We think that’s fair. Hopefully you agree.

Always remember:
We’ll be providing information, not advice
If you’re a Schwab client, we can’t accept or process instructions for any
account-related transactions
Play nice or your posts will be removed
Share, but nothing too personal
We hope you enjoy your time here. Remember, if you’re a Schwab client and
have specific questions about your account, we cannot answer them in this
forum but feel free to call us directly at

The way forward for company communications

There are a lot of reports flying around highlighting the confusion over how to respond to social media. There is no question that the media landscape is fundamentally altering. Empowered by social media tools, news can be shaped and distributed by billions of potential contributors.

To succeed in this new world of blog posts, tweets, YouTube and Facebook, companies and their communications teams need to develop new skills and an understanding of the new media landscape.

The speed of the new media landscape, and its demand for openness, challenges previous methods of working that were established to meet regular print publication and broadcast transmission deadlines.

From an operational and cultural perspective, it is challenging – no question. One of the key changes that the new media landscape is bringing about is that old style communications used to be a relationship with a few key editors and journalists; now communications in the new media landscape is about having two-way conversations with the many.

Rather than building relations with the key correspondent on a key print publication, companies need to build relations with key bloggers, for example, and be in a position to move at lightning speed to respond to any serious online criticism thatcould spread through Twitter, etc.  Companies must be able to respond in the correct tone of voice: friendly, polite, human and honest. This must all come though from a coherent social media engagement policy based on a good understanding of what works best in this new hugely important field.

In a research report passed to me recently I read that financial PR is hampered by regulation, and that it takes ages for press releases to be signed off. This situation is unsustainable in the long run. Investors are searching online and reading blogs. Therefore financial PR teams need to have social media engagement strategies. They need to be monitoring what is being said online, they need to be responding to factual inaccuracies where appropriate in the right tone of voice, and they need to be developing platforms online through which they can be engaging in the social media sphere.

Faced with a lack of control, the speed of links, and the fact that bad news about organisations can spread like wildfire, it is essential that companies are aware of what is occurring online.

Despite these new threats to companies, social media presents a whole range of rich tools from audio to video which can enable companies to fundamentally alter how they are perceived in creative and powerfully positive ways. Unlike the traditional print/broadcast media, social media presents opportunities to develop richer relationships with key stakeholders. Also, if it is done successfully, companies can successfully create their own media: their own new social media platforms. If they build these up effectively with loyal influential followings, they are in a very powerful position indeed.

From my experience the companies that tend to worry most about social media are those that are not participating. They are the most vulnerable. However, let’s say you have a blog which is followed by your key print and broadcast contacts and also by key bloggers and a whole range of influential online stakeholders, then you are in a strong position. They will listen and read what you have to say. If, for example, Google posts on its blog, it spreads and people pay attention.

The mistake some companies make, as they rush to set up these new platforms, is that they are not careful enough to think through the golden opportunities they have to wield real influence by creating something unique and relevant to their stakeholders. If these new platforms are filled with bland PR-speak they are not going to help anyone, as the real voices of the web will soon cut free and undermine misinformation.

So the challenge is for companies to speak in a more human voice and give their stakeholders something that is going to really interest them.

Furthermore, the amount of time communications teams spend on the phone dealing with print and broadcast media has to change. They need to be in front of terminals, watching blogs and tweets, joining in conversations, working on new videos, developing interesting podcasts, eyeing new opportunities like location-based marketing, and getting involved. This, make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of business as usual.

There is no divide between b2b or b2c either. Social Media or the web or digital, or whatever word you want to use to describe the place which is driving communications change, sees no division. It sees no organisational chart. It is unruly and disrespectful to the reputations of companies. It says what it feels and likes, as many companies have discovered as they have tried to impose the traditional corporate responses onto platforms like Facebook, and even Facebook is discovering it cannot control its users in the way that it hoped!

One last point, I know that is must be a real headache for some senior communications directors who have made their way to the top based on a traditional model of media and with little appetite for technology. But it doesn’t matter if you are a slow adopter of technology. Technology is age neutral. It is open to everyone. Whatever stage you are at, it is fine. The developments on the web present opportunities, I think, for all of us to enrich our lives. My mum and dad use Skype to have video conferences with their grand-daughter in Hong Kong. For them, it is a miracle. And for me, I am staggered at how quickly they have embraced a tool which is supposed to only be the exclusive property of so-called digital natives.

How wrong some commentators are. Social Media, the web, digital, is for everyone. We are all learning and it is important to share mistakes and learn from them as well as successes.

If you are a so-called digital immigrant you have plenty to offer. Welcome to the social media shores. We need your abilities and talents. We are all learning. No one knows what is coming next! Twitter, Facebook, all these companies emerged from nowhere in such a short space of time – and might not last. Good luck! And, if you need specialist help – given honestly in a simple way, by people who have worked in the field of technology and communications for some time, you know where to come!!

First Direct speaks with members of Social Media Leadership Forum

Over the years, First Direct has won many awards as a brand for its highly innovative customer service strategies. Now it is turning its attention to social media.

A week tomorrow, Tuesday (May 25), the head of brand for First Direct, Natalie Cowen, is joining a session to share with members of the Social Media Leadership Forum how First Direct is developing a real-time feedback site called ‘Live‘, for customers to relate the good, the bad and sometimes the  very ugly through forums, social networks and blogs.

First Direct will be revealing the thinking behind their unique strategy for protecting their brand through social media and how they are looking to use social media to build trust in the bank.

This is an excellent opportunity for members of the Social Media Leadership Forum to gain specialised insights into the latest techniques for online brand reputation management in the context of the rapid rise of social media.

If you are a member of a leading organisation and you would like to join the Social Media Leadership Forum then please get in touch. You can email me directly: or phone:

The Social Media Leadership Forum is run by ItsOpen ( and is designed to help organisations harness social media tools to successfully protect and build their reputations online.

Facebook blues

I wonder if an anti-Facebook bandwagon is starting to roll. The Murdoch press has been running a story about a film said to be due for release in October about the social media network’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, that portrays him as sleazy and conniving. It apparently shows him writing the software for the website as an outlet for him and other Harvard students to vent their fury against the university’s women, after being cruelly dumped by his girlfriend.

It then shows him welching on an agreement with other students who funded the site, and having to pay them millions after a court battle. Generally it paints a picture of an individual riven by sexual insecurities, indulging in casual sex in bars.

Elsewhere a story is emerging about Zuckerberg referring to Facebook’s first users as ‘dumbfucks’ for entrusting their personal information to him.

Are Facebook users likely to be bothered? You bet. Fashion is everything in such matters, and Zuckerberg’s growing reputation for disdain for users’ privacy is already creating a backlash. Somewhere it’s claimed that if you key in ‘how do I…’ in Google, then ‘how do I delete my Facebook account?’ comes up first in the list of alternatives. Actually it came up fourth when I tried it,  behind ‘how do I know if I’m pregnant?’, but the point is made.

Zuckerberg is apparently horrified and now wants to establish himself as ‘a good guy’. Surely that ship has sailed. Reputations matter when you’re at the top of the internet tree. Bill Gates giving away billions to the poor of the developed world was an effective answer to the battering Microsoft got over its monopolistic business practices, and it’s not for nothing that Google’s motto is ‘do no evil’. What has Zuckerberg got in his moral locker?

This is perhaps an opportunity for good old MySpace and other networking sites that were left behind by Facebook to recover some of their lost ground. Internet shifts happen fast. It seems likely that the Facebook phenomenon has peaked, and it’s just possible that at the end of the year the social networking landscape will look entirely different.

Managing a social media crisis

The key point about social media is that every customer can now influence the reputation of your brand. Everyone with a broadband internet connection has been empowered to state their views and opinions about your brand.

So how do you best deal with social media problems that are affecting the reputation of your brand? Boeing recently had experience of this challenge and realised how important it is to reply by crafting messages with the right tone. It is important to show humility and honesty. And as other companies such as Amazon has realised there is a right way to sorry that will prevent a situation from being inflamed unnecessarily.

You can read more about what companies are learning in terms of how to best handle social media challenges to their reputation here.

If you are interested to learn more, you might wish to get in touch with us to participate in one of our social media crisis management workshops.

Our best customers

Here at ItsOpen we have been thinking about the characteristics of our best social media customers.

Here are some of them:

They are innovative
They are committed and serious
They want to have some fun
They are inspiring companies
We admire their companies
They treat us as partners (important)
They are passionate about social media
They want us to help them

Thanks very much to everyone who has supported us so far: it is greatly appreciated.